Thursday, 8 April 2010

Dog training for writers - Elen Caldecott

Yesterday, we had a new member join the family. Those of you who know me – or have read my home page – know that for a long time I have wanted a dog.
Well, yesterday she arrived!

She is some weird kind of mongrel, part Sharpei, part terrier; a woman I met in the park yesterday swore she could she a bit of Irish wolf-hound in her. At the moment, she has a few names and we’re waiting to see what she settles down with.

Now, this isn’t going to be a post about dogs. If you want quality animal blogging, may I suggest the LolCats Bible – hours of fun to be had there. Though of course, I want to shower you with pictures and tales of what cute things she did yesterday (learned to sit and only woke up twice in the night to check where we were).

Instead, this is going to be a post drawing a tenuous link between writing and dog ownership. Bear with me.

First of all comes the planning – it’s just an exciting dream. For a novel, you create characters and situations and it all seems inspired. With a dog you spend ages thinking about names and wondering what she will be like. Will you make your dog wear clothes? Go to dancing lessons? What about agility classes? Your imagination fills with images and all of them are rosy, rosy, rosy.

Then it gets a bit harder. You have to make some decisions. You have to discard the ideas that you just can’t see working. You have to get a bit tough. This is the doggy equivalent of walking along the kennels at an animal sanctuary and have to look a dog in the eye and say ‘sorry, you’re too big’ or ‘you’re too moulty’.

Then comes the big day, you know what you want and you’re ready to go for it. That first flourish of your pen, the first time you set your characters down on the page, it’s a bit like the moment when the lead is handed to you and you get told ‘here’s your dog, give her a good home.’
Then the fear sets in. Can you really do this? What if the dog goes mental in the car on the way home? What if she hates you? What if she pines for the kennel manager and won’t eat and you have to hand feed her roast quail just so she doesn’t waste away? This is the best time to ignore the fear. Plough on, it will probably be fine. With a book, this usually happens to me around chapter 9, when I start to think ‘this is awful. This is never going to work. What was I thinking?’
That’s when determination has to come in. The determination to see it through to the end, come what may.

Yesterday I took my dog on her first walk. For an hour and a half, she strained at the lead, with me saying ‘heel’ every three steps. I have lead-blisters on two of my fingers. That’s when I realised that this is going to take time. This is going to be a real project. Like a novel, she is going to need patience and hard work and she’s only going to get better in tiny increments. But those improvements will add up to make something we can be proud of.

And, if it doesn’t, any excuse to call Cesar Milan is fine with me.
www.elencaldecott.com
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8 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

uh huh, writing blog, uh hum, yep, ok, now - where are the puppy pictures?!! - Sorry once you mention doggy I loose concentration on all else :-)

Elen Caldecott said...

I know I should have taken photos already, but there just seemed to be too much to do getting her settled in. It's on my to-do list!

Katherine Langrish said...

Is she a puppy or full grown, Elen? happy times - !

Elen Caldecott said...

she's 18 months, so she still needs to go to puppy training classes, but hopefully she won't grow any more! We promised the landlord we'd get a small dog...she is most definitely medium...if not large...

Leila said...

I just read the most wonderful children's book about dogs - Sky Wolves by Livi Michael. Combine your two interests? :)

Meg Harper said...

My favourite dog book is 'Woof!' by Allan Ahlberg - just wonderful!

madwippitt said...

Doggyblog ... wonderful!
But please don't mention the CM name, even in jest ...

The Curious Vet said...

What about vaccinations for works in progress? There's the writer's block virus, plot going off the rails bacterium and immunity from rejections slips.